Rural Missouri - July 2013 - (Page 30)

INFAMOUS ANCESTRY Don Wilson’s great-grandfather was one of the most soughtafter bushwhackers in Missouri Don Wilson has honored his great-grandfather, BIll Wilson, not only by dressing as he once did, but also by writing the book, “Bushwhacker Bill Wilson Rides Again.” A by Alyssa Goodman s Don Wilson reaches the top of a cliff, it takes him only a second to catch his breath before he resumes the history of his great-grandfather. The 66-year-old stands by the opening of Moak Cave, where his ancestor once slept. This was the favorite hiding spot of Bushwhacker Bill Wilson. The cave, about a 300foot climb from the ground, gives a picturesque view of the surrounding grassy fields below. A gravel road now cuts through them. Don’s great-grandfather Bill was born around 1830 and started his stint as a bushwhacker in 1861 during the Civil War, quickly becoming one of the most notorious bushwhackers in the state. Bushwhackers had and still have a reputation as being rebellious for not picking a side in the Civil War, Don says. They remained in hiding and survived by stealing from whichever side was convenient at the time. Bill was known for being a sharpshooter and would often clear out a campsite by killing whomever was in his path and stealing all the ammo. Now, Don is trying to bring back the name of Bill and other bushwhackers in a more respected light. He spent years researching and more than six months writing the book, “Bush- Above: Don Wilson packs a pair of .44-caliber pistols much like his greatgrandfather would have used. Right: Don climbs to Moak Cave, near Rolla, which was Bill’s favorite hiding spot. 30 whacker Bill Wilson Rides Again,” in order to clear up some of the myths that loomed. It’s hard to miss Don as he steps out of his white minivan. On both sides of his car is a depiction of Bill with four bullet holes around him. He’s dressed like it’s 1863, but no one in the parking lot seems fazed. Not by the two .44-caliber pistols he has strapped to his waist, which he assures you are unloaded. Not even by the black leather boots that go just below his knee or the suspenders holding his gray and black tweed pants in place. This is just another day for Don and people around here understand that. On occasion, he can be seen playing the role of a bushwhacker at re-enactments dressed as his greatgrandfather. Toward the end of his career as a bushwhacker, there was a $300 reward for Bill, dead or alive. He was the most wanted of bushwhackers and contributed to Missouri being known as the “land of the bushwhackers.” Being a bushwhacker wasn’t necessarily a choice. It was the only option for someone who didn’t want to put on a Union or Confederate uniform. Don described him as a “modern-day Robin Hood.” “Yes, he stole, yes, he killed, but he didn’t keep it all himself,” Don says. Bill’s infamous bushwhacker stories were even loosely portrayed in the tage by giving him an opportunity to 1976 film, “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” research his great-grandfather’s life Hollywood may have overexaggerated where he once lived. parts of the bushwhacker’s life. The When Bill hid in Moak Cave, he main character, Josey Wales, unlike would turn his trusty horse loose. All Bill, had his entire family killed by it took was a quick whistle or birdUnion Soldiers and retaliates by joinlike noise to bring the horse back. ing a band of guerilla fighters. He The most valued secret of his hiding eventually settles down with a group spot at the cave was its convenient of settlers where he remains after location close to his family and a well negotiating a peaceful co-existence for water. with the Indians. Like Bill, he was Bill ended his seven-year stint as never caught. a bushwhacker in 1868, but he was However, it all still sought after for many years started for Bill when to follow. He was rumored to be soldiers stole some down in Texas, but that was of Bill’s livestock and only a brilliant plan by the didn’t like the fact that former bushwhacker to he had refused to take • deceive everyone. sides during the war. His Rolla To many people’s house, just south of Rolla surprise, Bill was never in Phelps County, was caught, dead or alive. burned to the ground. The cause of death of the After that, becoming a bushwhacker great bushwhacker is still unknown. was Bill’s best chance for revenge. He was too smart and never took Don, the middle child of 15, now any chances with people. The book lives to clear his great-grandfather’s recounts many moments of life-orname. Growing up, his father would death situations that Bill fixed immetell him old stories of the bushwhackdiately by pulling out one of his pisers. Wanda Patterson, one of Don’s tols. He would end their lives before younger sisters, laughs as she and her the soldiers took his with his accubrother remember their childhood. rate, quick shooting, Don learned “All of our life, these stories have through his research. been told instead of nursery stories,” Today, as Don weaves in and out Wanda says. of local convenience stores that sell Don, a member of Intercounty his book around the now-developed Electric Cooperative, never thought town, people recognize who he is about leaving Rolla. Living here and give him a count of how many brings him even closer to his heribooks they’ve sold. Perhaps he has redeemed the name of the bushwhacker. Perhaps, a little bit of his grandfather’s Robin Hood spirit is in him. He’s always been proud to be Bill’s great-grandson. “I’ve never been afraid of saying it,” says the historian. “It’s just a part of me. He’s always been my greatgrandfather.” For every purchase of the book, “Bushwhacker Bill Wilson Rides Again,” $5 is donated to the Warrior Transition Unit’s Hand Skill Workshop at Fort Leonard Wood. More information on how to purchase the book can be found at www. or by contacting Don at 573-308-2424. WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2013

Rural Missouri - July 2013
That old-time religion
Natural nest
Long-distance lead
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Keep it cool
On the banks of Bull Shoals
Retro renovations
Infamous ancestry
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - July 2013